Issue 74, 30 July 2003
Editor: Jean Hollis Weber
In this issue...
Results of survey of Australian technical communicators
Say what you mean
Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry, 2nd edition
Printer-friendly pages now on this site!
Articles on editing in Technical Communication journal
Semi-automating pre-editing tasks, and paperless proofreading
IBM and SeniorNet pilot accessible website
Simplified English - What is it, who uses it, and why?
More on the paramedic method of editing
TCANZ 2003 conference, New Zealand
My books: Taming Microsoft Word and others
Subscription information and privacy statement
In May-July 2003 I conducted a survey of Australian Technical Communicators on behalf of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Australia chapter, to provide information to Australian technical communicators about current salaries (or hourly rates) in relation to experience, qualifications, and other factors.
Preliminary results of the survey are now available here: http://www.jeanweber.com/survey03/index.htm.
Results will also be posted on the STC Australia chapter website, http://www.stc-aus.org.au/.
Ron Scheer's website, SayWhatYouMean, is a great resource, especially if you need to train people in writing for the Web. His essays are often thought-provoking, too; a good example is "In Defense of Jargon." http://www.saywhatyoumean.com/
Second edition, by Sun Technical Publications, 356 pages, Prentice Hall, 2003, ISBN 0131428993.
The first edition of this style guide was good, especially if you wanted an alternative to the Microsoft Manual of Style, but this edition is even better. It covers a wider range of issues (adding much information about writing online material), and covers them very well. In fact, the book goes a bit beyond style in an appendix on developing a publications department, but the topics covered are certainly relevant and valuable, so I'm glad they were included. I don't always agree with the style choices, but that's irrelevant; I've never seen any style guide I completely agree with.
From the Sun website:
"This fully revised second edition reflects dramatic changes in the production and delivery of technical documentation. Coverage includes:
- Detailed grammar, punctuation, typographic, and legal guidelines
- Extensive guidance on creating effective step-by-step procedures
- Techniques for documenting Web applications and graphical user interfaces
- Expert help with creating indexes and glossaries
- Extensive recommendations for using hyperlinks
- Checklists and forms for editing, tracking manuscripts, and verifying production status
- Guidelines for using commonly confused words and terms
- Practical tips for gender-neutral writing
- Internationalization guidelines that simplify translation and improve clarity for non-native English speakers
- Real-world help for managers: hiring writers, working with illustrators, managing schedules and workflow, coordinating with printers, and more
- Expanded and updated recommended reading list "
I'm so impressed with this book, I'm likely to use it as a textbook for teaching technical editors. As you can tell, I'm giving it the "highly recommended" stamp.
I got my copy from the Sun website, but the page is often not working (http://www.sun.com/books/catalog/sun_tech_pub.xml). You might try Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or bookshops that carry computer books.
I'm retrofitting some of the old pages and plan to make all new pages with plain-text equivalents, so you can be sure they adjust to fit the printed page, whatever font and paper size you're using. Look for the link near the top of the page.
The STC (Society for Technical Communication)'s journal Technical Communication is online, but you need to be a member of the STC to be able to access it. If you're not a member of the STC, check your nearest university library, or ask a member to loan you their copies. Even better, join!
I find the articles on editing (and other topics) most helpful when I need an authoritative source to back up my assertions with writers or clients. Articles are often thought-provoking and give me new ideas, as well. Here are two recent ones:
"The Technical Editor as Diplomat: Linguistic Strategies for Balancing Clarity and Politeness," by Jo Mackiewicz and Kathryn Riley, Technical Communication, vol.50, no.1, February 2003, pp. 83-94. Summary: "Examines research to suggest how editors can balance clarity and politeness in interactions with native and nonnative speakers. Asserts that results of linguistic research can increase the effectiveness of editor-writer communication."
"Electronic Editing in Technical Communication: A Survey of Practices and Attitudes," by David Dayton, Technical Communication, vol.50, no.2, May 2003, pp. 192-205. Summary: "Presents results of a sample survey on why, how, and to what extent technical communicators use computers to edit. Suggests that electronic editing is becoming a common editing mode."
See The Editorium of 16 October 2002 for a good article on the role of a pre-editor in getting electronic manuscripts ready for the editors, who could then focus more fully on editing. This work might include turning multiple spaces into single spaces, changing double hyphens into em dashes, and so on, discussed in more detail in the article.
A subject index is here: http://www.editorium.com/euindex.htm
From a posting on the STC AccessAbility (formerly Special Needs) SIG's list:
"SeniorNet is serving as the pilot site for ... new technology developed by IBM to make the World Wide Web accessible to people who may not have not had the chance to benefit from it. This includes people with visual limitations that make it difficult or impossible to see a Web page or motor impairments such as tremors that make it difficult to type or use a mouse."
To read the press release, go to http://www.seniornet.org/ and click on the Research link on the top of the page, then click SeniorNet/IBM 2002 on the left nav bar or under Research Papers. Or try this direct link: http://www.seniornet.org/php/default.php?PageID=6583
You can also go to the SeniorNet/IBM Project Web Site at http://www.seniornet.org/ibm/
Following on from the information source given in issue 69, here's a place for more info on Simplified English: http://www.aecma.org/Publications/SEnglish/sengbrc.htm
Holly Gallup firstname.lastname@example.org of High Desert Documentation Services responded to my item in the last issue of this newsletter, about the paramedic method of editing.
"Actually, Richard Lanham invented the Paramedic Method. His book Revising Prose was first published long before 1987. My paperback copy is copyright 1979 (Scribner's English Series).
"Lanham was a professor at UCLA at the time and the Paramedic Method was adopted, briefly, in all the beginning English composition courses. A graduate of UCLA, I had begun my technical editing and technical writing career just a couple of years earlier and was taking computer courses in the UCLA Extension program. I decided I needed a break and found a course in the English department in the Paramedic Method. If I had to credit one single thing for the greatest improvement in my writing, it would be that course.
"Revising Prose is pretty rough going for anyone who doesn't come from a literary criticism background. For most technical writers, I'd recommend learning the Paramedic Method from Lanham's other book, Revising Business Prose, which draws its examples from bureaucratic business writing. My Scribner's paperback of this title is copyright 1981.
"I don't know when or why this method quit being taught at UCLA, but by the time I ventured back to take some literature classes in the 1990s, none of the professors I spoke to had even heard of Lanham's work."
In a later note, Holly Gallup added, "Lanham is still a Professor Emeritus at UCLA. During the time I wrote about (late 1970s), he was the head of the Writing Program at UCLA. I would, therefore, be surprised if his method was totally unheard of even by the 1990s. I also thought it was interesting, when I checked out his web site, to discover that Ron Scheer got his doctorate at UCLA. No doubt that's where he became acquainted with Lanham and his method, although he's old enough to have encountered it around the same time I did."
The Technical Communicators Association of New Zealand (TCANZ) is holding its 2003 conference in Auckland, New Zealand, on 4-5 September. The theme is "Focus on Users" and the program looks very interesting. I am presenting a paper titled "Break out of the grammar trap" and leading a discussion on "Meeting the special needs of diverse audiences" in the Ideas Market. For more information about the conference, visit http://www.tcanz.org.nz/
Taming OpenOffice.org Writer,
Taming Microsoft Word (3 editions, for Word 2002, 2000, and 97), http://www.jeanweber.com/books/tmw
Editing Online Help, http://www.jeanweber.com/books/olhbk.htm
Electronic Editing, http://www.jeanweber.com/books/e-edit.htm
© Copyright 2003, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.
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